The government has selected a strategic investor to revamp the Komenda Sugar Development Factory in the Central Region.
The investor, Park Agrotech Ghana Limited, a Ghanaian-Indian company, will inject $28 million into the factory between 2020 and 2023.
The Ghana-based company is a subsidiary of the Skylark Group of Companies of India, one of the largest integrated farming businesses in India.
Park Agrotech, which emerged as the successful bidder after a rigorous selection process conducted by the accounting and advisory firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), is expected to invest $11 million of the amount into sugarcane cultivation, $6 million to upgrade plant and machinery and $11million as working capital to bring the ailing factory back on its feet.
A total of 15 companies expressed interest in the factory, out of which five submitted bids to become the strategic partner.
The STM Project Limited, a company renowned for sugarcane development and sugar plant modernisation, expansion and rehabilitation for more than 200 sugar factories in India and other parts of the world, will serve as the technical partner, with technical support from the University of Cape Coast.
The acting Chief Director of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI), Mr. Patrick Nimo, led a delegation from the ministry to Komenda, near Cape Coast, yesterday, during which the long-awaited strategic investor was introduced to the Omanhene of the Komenda Traditional Area, Nana Kojo Kru.
The Chairman of the interim management committee (IMC) of the factory, Major General Richardson Baiden (retd); the Senior Country Partner of the PwC, Mr. Vish Ashiagbor; the Managing Director of Park Agrotech, Mr. Lalit Mishra Kumar, and other stakeholders were present at the event.
They also toured the factory.
Mr. Nimo said the company was expected to directly employ and train 300 Ghanaian members of staff and create opportunities for 3,000 people, including farmers, artisans, and traders.
He commended all partners for working hard in the process to bring the factory back to life, saying it was important that the factory fulfilled its mandate of producing sugar and creating jobs in the area.
He said there was now a new sugar policy that supported all integrated sugar projects, including plantation, milling, and refining of sugarcane to keep the factory working.
Mr. Nimo noted that sugar was a strategic anchor industry which enabled companies to produce ethanol, and also served as raw material for industry, saying although the importation of sugar was rising, “we were unable to produce sugar”.
He said the factory was an opportunity for the investor and the community to work together to ensure the sustainable production of sugar to reduce the importation of sugar.
Speaking on behalf of the transaction advisors, Mr. Ashiagbor said before Park Agrotech was recommended, a team from Ghana was sent to India to do due diligence.
“Having satisfied ourselves with their capabilities, we recommended them for the government’s consideration that they be selected as the preferred bidder. The government reviewed the work that we had done and gave approval for Park Agrotech to be engaged as the strategic investor for the Komenda Sugar Development Factory,” he said.
"We have negotiated and completed the fine-tuning of the agreement that Park Agrotech will execute,” he added.
Mr Ashiagbor added that although the agreement would need to go for certain approvals, as well as the meeting of some conditions precedent, "we are comfortable enough to let you know that Park Agrotech will deliver this project satisfactorily and, therefore, they are in the process today undertaking further inspection to understand what needs to take place from here”.
“So they, essentially, hit the ground running, while we finalise the nitty-gritty of the agreement,” he said.
‘We have the expertise’
For his part, Mr. Kumar said the company was excited to take over the factory and work to ensure that it became useful to the community and the country.
He commended the evaluation committee for its transparency and expressed the hope to start work soon, adding: “In the near future, Ghana will produce all the sugar it needs for consumption and even for export.”
Mr. Kumar later told the Daily Graphic that the company had the technical and financial capacity to operationalise the factory and make it beneficial to the country.
“The operations of the factory will lead to the development of nucleus and out-grower sugarcane plantations which are expected to cover an area of over 5,000 hectares. This scheme will employ over 2,000 farmers in the catchment area. Also, there will be varieties of sugarcane with high yields and high sucrose content,” he said.
He said the company was committed to working within the laws of the country to ensure that the economic value of the factory was realised.
Community is happy
Nana Kru expressed joy that the factory was going to be operational to create employment for the people and bring life back to the area.
Some community leaders who joined officials on the tour said they hoped that the factory would be operational soon, as promised.
A worker at the factory, Mr. Kwame Mensah, expressed happiness that it would bounce back to life soon.
In 2016, the government secured a $35-million Export-Import (EXIM) Bank of India loan to set up the Komenda Sugar Factory.
An additional $24 million was set aside to support outgrower farmers.
The factory was inaugurated on May 31, 2016, amid pomp and ceremony, to produce sugar, but it became stillborn due to a multiplicity of factors that were described as "technical and operational challenges".
For the past three years, the factory has been left to deteriorate.
While addressing a durbar of the chiefs and the people of Komenda on September 14, last year, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo gave an assurance that the government was in the process of getting a strategic investor to revive the factory.
A visit by the Daily Graphic to the factory in July this year showed that the harsh weather conditions and the salty breeze from the Atlantic Ocean that lies about three kilometres from the factory had triggered rapid corrosion of the metallic parts of machinery.
The Daily Graphic also observed that weeds had virtually taken over the premises, making it a haven for rodents and reptiles.
The rusty metallic parts of machines indicated that further delay in putting the factory to use could lead to additional cost in terms of repairs and replacement of those parts.
Credit : Daily Graphic